More than 20,000 on NC coast already without power from Florence gusts

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NEW BERN, NC - SEPTEMBER 13: Residents try to prepare for more floodwaters at the Trent Court public housing apartments after the Neuse River went over its banks during Hurricane Florence September 13, 2018 in New Bern, United States.

As Hurricane Florence begins to hammer the Carolinas, a few fliers managed to escape the storms path, arriving at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport Thursday just before the hurricane is predicted to made landfall.

"The broadening of the event also signals that storm surge and flooding will remain important drivers of overall loss.

"A lot of people left this morning, because they said it was down to Category Two but a Two can still do a lot of damage", she said, noting that even in the lower classification, Florence's winds would be buffeting at 161 kilometers per hour.

Since issuing a mandatory evacuation order Wednesday, nearly all of the more than 2500 residents left the island.

"It's not like we're not taking it seriously", Mrs. Mramer told The Washington Times. "But we're going to be okay", he said.

According to the National Weather Service, storm surges occur when hurricane winds blow along the surface of the ocean and cause water to build up as the storm gets closer to the shoreline.

Florence was downgraded to a Category 2 storm overnight on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale but it is still packing hurricane-force winds of 165 kilometres per hour (105 miles per hour), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

"If we lose the house, oh well, we can get housing".

Florence's top winds were clocked on Thursday at 100mph as it churned in the Atlantic Ocean, down from a peak of 140mph earlier this week when it was classified as a Category 4.

North Carolina governor Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent".

Associated Press story by Johanthan Drew.

Florence is widely seen as a test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), whose capabilities were stretched thin a year ago as it responded to three major hurricanes.

Spanish moss waved in the trees as the winds picked up in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City.

"I built this house myself, so I'm not anxious at all, I know it's solid", he said.

A flash flood watch is under effect for Nash and Edgecombe counties through Saturday evening, as Florence is expected to slow its forward progress tonight into Friday before moving slowly west-southwest late Friday into Saturday, producing a prolonged period of torrential rainfall across sections of the Piedmont and Coastal Plain.

"This is a very risky storm", Long said.

Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump tweeted that he had just been briefed on the storm and "FEMA, First Responders and Law Enforcement are supplied and ready".

Utility companies are predicting power outages that could reach between one-to-three million across both North and SC for days and possibly weeks.

A buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves almost 30 feet (9 meters) high as Florence churned toward shore.

Florence's weakening as it neared the coast created tension between some who left home and authorities who anxious that the storm could still be deadly. Poor people are less likely to evacuate since they can't afford to travel and stay in other regions.

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